Classic Signs in Abilene – Our Top Five
Abilene Texas has to be the one city in Texas that won't let go to some of it's history. It seems at times that we are more on nostalgia than on moving forward and seeking the future. So, when I set out to locate some of our more Classic and/or Iconic Signs, it didn't surprise me that we had more than our fair share. The problem now is, figuring out which ones ranked on top. Are you ready to take a trip down memory lane?
The Dixie Pig Restaurant first opened it's doors in 1931 at the, then most popular intersection of South 14th and Butternut. In 1941 the building was rebuilt with the current structure that still stands today. An additional dining room was added in 1948, replacing a car hop area. The Dixie Pig has always been white, but originally had red trim. In 1986, the trim color was changed to blue. Many in the area that still enjoy is atmosphere and wonderful food affectionately refer to it as "The Pig", "The Pig Pen", "The D.P" or the "Juicy Pig" the later, referring to the "juicy gossip" some of it's early day patrons would disseminate. It's my number one because when you see it you get a warm cozy feeling of being home in the Key City.
The sign went up at Farolito's Mexican Restaurant about a week before the doors opened in 1939. The intersection of North First and Highway 80 was the main thoroughfare that cut straight through the middle of Abilene. Anyone traveling from El Paso to Fort Worth, Dallas had to go right by Farolitos. Since opening Farolito's has been serving enchiladas, chili rellenos, tacos, and Burritos to weary travelers. When you see that Farolitos sign you know you're in the heart of The Big Country.
This 11 Story building was built in 1927 by the Abilene Hotel Company. The hotel was leased by Conrad Hilton and was the very first hotel to bear his name. It was The Abilene Hilton from 1927 until it was renamed the Windsor Hotel when Hilton's lease ran out in 1945. The Windsor has been completely restored. It now offers retirement type apartments. The Windsor's painted over the Hilton name so that everyone could see it was under new management, and that it did. The Windsor sign painted on three of it's four sides (north, east and south sides) could be seen for miles in the Key City. When you are just driving through whether its through town or around the interstate you can see and read the sign that hasn't been changed since the 1940's. When one is coming in from the DFW area on I-20 as soon as you clear the Baird hill there it is, almost as if to say, "welcome home weary traveler, welcome home."
Ninnie Baird baked bread in Fort Worth, she went on to found Mrs. Baird's Bakeries. Ninnie had eight children, of which each of the boys and some of the girls helped in the start of the business. The Baird's Fort Worth neighbors were the first to become acquainted with Mrs. Baird's bread. In the beginning Ninnie would give away her pies, cakes and bread. The Baird family built a small bakery in their backyard in 1920, they built their first plant in Forth Worth. Eight years later the Bairds opened a new plant in Dallas. A third bakery was built in Houston in 1938, and a fourth in Abilene in 1948, making it the largest independent bakery in the U.S. The Mrs Baird Bakeries not only provided bread to the millions of West Texans through out the years but managed to employ thousands of Texans through the years as well. The Mrs. Baird Signs that are still up around town even though they are now owned by the Mexican Bread company Bimbo. The Mrs Baird's signs are a piece of our history and heritage. This Sign is in the industrial part of town on north Treadaway. You know you are in Texas if there's Mrs Baird's bread anywhere near by.
Long before the was a Mall of Abilene, long before we had a West Gate Shopping center which later became the West Gate Mall. Abilene had it's first shopping court Burro Alley and it was a two story shopping center with an open courtyard and small mom and pop owned businesses. Built in the late forty's all of the original proprietors are long gone now but Burro Alley remains and thrives with and excellent Mexican Restaurant El Fenix they've been an Abilene staple since the early 1960's, but not at that local. The sigh painted on the side of the building offered travelers along Texas Highway 80 the opportunity to stop and stretch their legs do a little shopping and get a bite to eat. There's always plenty of parking in the back. The business owners have done well in keeping the old signs painted and kept them from fading. I remember going to Burro Alley to the Casa Herrera Restaurant to eat dinner with my date just prior to my Abilene high school graduation. The Burro Alley sign alone invokes lots of wonderful memories of simpler times in the Key City.